Top Six Acne Treatment Myths, Busted!

Michelle Henry, a dermatologist in New York City, clears up the most common acne myths so you can help your kid beat blemishes fast.
Jul 21, 2014



A teenage boy inspects his skin in the mirror.

Jul 21, 2014

Myth: Acne doesn’t affect kids until at least middle school.
Fact: Kids as young as 9 can experience breakouts, says Dr. Henry. In fact, acne is striking kids earlier than ever. Doctors aren’t exactly sure what’s behind the uptick, but children are entering puberty about a year earlier than just 20 years ago, Dr. Henry says, so that could be fueling blemishes, too.

Myth: Home remedies are gentler than over-the-counter or prescription treatments.
Many supposedly gentle home treatments, such as coating pimples with toothpaste, may do more harm than good, says Dr. Henry. Products like toothpaste may contain harsh chemicals that can dry and irritate the skin, leading to even more breakouts.

Myth: Acne is caused by touching your face with dirty hands.
Pimples develop when pores in the skin become clogged with oil and dead skin cells; bacteria can also get trapped, which leads to redness and swelling. However, touching your face can make breakouts worse. Not only does it increase irritation, it can also spread the acne-causing bacteria around the skin, says Dr. Henry. The result? New blemishes in new places. That’s why it’s important to keep anything that regularly touches your child’s skin—like his or her cell phone, pillowcase, or even violin chin rest—as clean as possible.  

Myth: Kids shouldn’t use a moisturizer if they’re experiencing breakouts.
Keeping skin hydrated is very important, especially if your child has acne. That’s because treatments can be drying. Opt for a moisturizer that is light and noncomedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores.

Myth: Popping pimples helps clear them up faster.
Popping a pimple may break a whitehead on the surface, but it also pushes bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells deeper into the skin. The result: more redness and swelling, and maybe even a scar. If your child is tempted to squeeze, encourage him or her to immediately distract him or herself: Text or call a friend, jump up and down, or head outside for a quick walk—whatever he or she needs to do to stop!

Myth: When acne strikes early, it’s best to take a wait-and-see approach before trying treatments.
It’s safe—and smart—to treat acne as soon as it appears. Early-onset acne can be an indication that your child is at risk for more severe breakouts later, says Dr. Henry, so it’s important to get them started on an easy-to-follow regimen. It’s a good idea to check in with your child’s pediatrician or a dermatologist, who can recommend the best options for your child. The doctor may suggest applying a prescription medication such as Epiduo®*, a gel that’s FDA-approved for kids as young as age 9. The goal is simply to create a set routine your child can stick with, which will eventually help stop breakouts before they start.  

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*Important Safety Information
EPIDUO® (adapalene and benzoyl peroxide) Gel, 0.1%/2.5% is indicated for the topical treatment of acne vulgaris in patients 9 years of age and older. Adverse Events: In controlled clinical studies, the most commonly reported adverse events (≥1%) in patients treated with EPIDUO® Gel were dry skin, contact dermatitis, application site burning, application site irritation and skin irritation. Warnings/Precautions: Patients taking EPIDUO® Gel should avoid exposure to sunlight and sunlamps and wear sunscreen when sun exposure cannot be avoided. Erythema, scaling, dryness, stinging/ burning, irritant and allergic contact dermatitis may occur with use of EPIDUO® Gel and may necessitate discontinuation.

Please see Full Prescribing Information.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

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